Valarie Pettiford

Her Second Solo Album, "Velvet Sky," A Collection Of Original Lullabies

Valarie Pettiford

Valarie Pettiford is that rare breed, a triple threat. From the stages of Broadway to the sound stages of Hollywood, she has charmed audiences with her performances. A Fosse-trained dancer, Pettiford was Tony nominated for her work in the musical revue "Fosse," which paid homage to her mentor.

As an actor, she is most recognized as Big Dee Dee Thorne on the hit sitcom, "Half and Half," and Aunt Geneva, whose rehearsal dinner musical number in "Jumping the Broom" pretty much stole the show from her co-stars.

Valarie has released her second solo album, "Velvet Sky," a collection of original lullabies, all of which were written especially for her by two legendary writing teams - Ron Abel (music) / Chuck Steffan (lyrics) and Michael Orland (music) / Jamie Wooten (lyrics).

Here to sing you a soothing lullaby as only she can is Ms. Valarie Pettiford!

VP: Hey, it's Valarie Pettiford.

MS: Hey, how are you?

VP: I'm awesome! How are you?

MS: Great! I was giving "Velvet Sky" a listen before you called. It's very nice. Did your Mom sing you lullabies when you were a kid?

VP: She did. She has a beautiful voice, it's so nice to see her now with singing to her great grandchildren. She has always sang, and so does my sister. Lullabies have always been a part of my life.

MS: I always wondered if people really sang lullabies to their kids. (laughs)

VP: They do, they actually do. (laughs)

MS: There was something I read that stated you thought your voice was well suited to them. I agree with that.

VP: Thank you, thank you. People always ask me: "Valarie, what do you usually sing"? Of course I do jazz and musical theatre, but my heart is in rock-n-roll. But I just don't have a rock-n-roll voice, so I have thought about where my vocal sensibilities lie. I think they do lie in this particular vein.

MS: Interesting, because I wouldn't know by hearing you sing that you didn't have a rock-n-roll voice. Because, as we all know, Pat Benatar was trained as an opera singer and she has a rock-n-roll voice; so someone listening to you would not necessarily know you didn't have that type of voice.

VP: You're right, I mean, I could do it, but it's not the way I want to do it. I would want to sound like Pat Benatar or Tina Turner, but I don't.

MS: I just did a write up on an Ike & Turner collection that is coming out, the music they made together.

VP: Was amazing, absolutely amazing!

MS: Wasn't it? So you were nominated for a Tony Award.

VP: Yes, it was for "Fosse". He was an amazing human being. I loved him, an incredible man. To be nominated for a show that was celebrating his work, it was like compilation of his greatest hits, was so great! I've worked with Bob twice in my life.

MS: Oh, wow! What shows?

VP: The very first national tour of "Dancin'" and his last new show the year before he died, called "Big Deal".

MS: He was an interesting man. I love the film "All That Jazz" that was based on his life.

VP: Bob was amazing! Right now they are trying to bring back "American Dance Machine" and they called me because I was Bob Fosse's dance captain in that show. Right now we are re-creating one of the numbers of the show, so it's very exciting to immersed back into the "Fosse Style". With Nicole Fosse (Bob Fosse's daughter) and Kathryn Doby, who was in "All That Jazz" and Bob's long-time assistant at the helm. It's been a wonderful time.

MS: There are thirteen tracks on this album and they were written by some really great people. How did that all come about?

VP: Well, I have to give props to my ex-husband. At the time we were married he also felt my voice was very suited to lullabies. He thought of the idea of doing a CD of original lullabies. We teamed up with Ron Abe, Chuck Steffan, who has been my musical director for a long time, Michael Orland, who plays all the rehearsals and stuff like tht for "American Idol,"' and his writing partner Jamie Wooten, who wrote for the series I was on, "Half and Half," "The Golden Girls," and so many other things. We brought those two teams in and at the end they switched partners and they wrote with each other, which was really awesome. That's basically how it started.

MS: Hey, not many people do an album of lullabies, it's completely original.

VP: I know, right? It was exciting to do and I was very fortunate to have those teams on board.

MS: By the way, do you have kids yourself?

VP: No, I don't have any kids. I do have incredible nephews and grand nephews and I am Godmother to my other friends' kids, so this is for them.

MS: Cool, that works!

VP: Absolutely!

MS: Let's talk about your three NAACP Award nominations. Do you get recognized as Big Dee Dee Thorne a lot from "Half and Half"?

VP: All of the time! (laughs) Yes, it is wonderful! I don't really look like the character. I don't dress like her. I don't act like her. But when people look at me they go "Oh my God, that's you!" And when they hear my speaking voice they're like "Oh my God!" (laughs) The fans are so incredible, so nice and so respectful, they are always telling me, "I don't mean to bother you, but I love your work". I love all that. It makes me feel wonderful and that all the hard work is paying off.

MS: The icing on the cake, so to speak.

VP: Yes, it's great when the fans tell me you look better and younger than you do on television, too. (laughs) I love that they appreciated the work I am doing and tell me to keep it up, and how they hope to see me in something else. So, yeah I get recognized all the time, and I love it!

MS: Rumor has it you pretty much stole "Jumping The Broom".

VP: (laughs) Somebody said that, not me. My role was very delicious, it was amazing, too. I was surrounded by the best cast and had the best director. It was a wonderful experience.

MS: I heard you had an off-color musical number in it.

VP: I did. (laughs) The movie is about a wedding and I did a song during the rehearsal dinner that was inappropriate but funny as hell.

MS: Since I haven't seen it, can you tell me what it was?

VP: Well, the movie has been out for a while so it won't spoil it for anyone. But sometimes I hate saying it, because it will spoil it for people who have not seen the movie and still want to see it.

MS: Valarie, you are a tease. (laughs)

VP: It's inappropriate, but funny as hell.

MS: Now you are going to have to make me rent it.

VP: You can find it on DVD and on On Demand.

MS: Gee, thanks a lot, Valarie! (laughs)

VP: You're welcome. (laughs)

Let Valarie sing you a lullaby at www.officialvalariepettiford.com.

Michael Shinafelt
Michael Shinafelt has covered pop & dance music since he first burst on to the writing scene, interviewing everyone from pop icon Olivia Newton-John to pop artist E.G. Daily. Not to mention the many dance divas (male and female) who he has crossed paths with. Other interviews of note are Pamela Anderson, Heidi Fleiss, as well as cover stories on Margaret Cho and Kathy Griffin. Peace.
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